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Friday, September 30, 2016
Birmingham: Archbishop-Elect Bernard Longley at Vespers on eve of installation
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Family together: Archbishop-Elect Bernard Longley with his father, Fred, aged 81, and sister, Kathleen Lloyd, after Vespers
The Archbishop-Elect of Birmingham, Bishop Bernard Longley, Presided at Solemn Vespers, in the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, on Monday 7 December, the evening before his Installation as Ninth Archbishop of Birmingham.

More that 200 religious, priests, brothers and nuns, took part in First Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mike Stanley and CJM Music led the singing throughout the service.

Bishop William Kenney, CP, Diocesan Administrator until the Installation of the new  Archbishop, Bishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop and Provost of the Metropolitan Chapter, and Canon Patrick Browne, Administrator of St Chad’s Cathedral, were in choir on the sanctuary.

Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854. He that: “The Most Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

During his homily Archbishop-Elected Bernard Longley said: “I am particularly glad that so many members of the Religious Congregations in the Archdiocese, men and women, are here this evening to pray the Prayer of the Church.

“The religious vocation is at the heart of the Church and yet it will very often take you out to the margins, as you known, the edge where you provide welcome and support for some of the most needy people in our society.  The experience of Religious life will often dispose you to serve together the needs of those who are marginalised or vulnerable, understanding what will help the very young or the dependant elderly.”

Bishop Longley concluded: “As I prepare to take up my new responsibilities in the Archdiocese I look forward to visiting the communities of Religious Sisters and Brothers in the years ahead and to recognising, and where I can supporting, your vital work and witness founded as it is on lives of prayerful obedience to God’s call.  May the Lord always prosper your endeavours.”

No tickets were required to attend this service and parishioners from parishes throughout  the Archdiocese of Birmingham took the opportunity to join the religious to pray with and meet their new Archbishop-Elect.

The full homily text follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I am so grateful that you have come here to St Chad’s so that we can celebrate together the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and begin in this way the Patronal Feast of the Archdiocese.  This Feast emphasises Mary’s closeness to God from the very outset of her life and it prefigures a life of total commitment to God’s will and devoted love to his Son and hers.

Our Lady was both the mother of Jesus and his disciple and the Church offers both roles to us for our support and encouragement.  We often approach Mary in prayer because of her closeness to our Lord and we know that she stands beside us as we open our hearts to God.  She responds to our prayerful requests of her as a mother and we acknowledge her as Mother of the Church.

As the mother of Christ she was also his first teacher and it was from her that he first learnt in his human nature what it means to be loved unconditionally.  Mary taught her child, the Word made flesh, how to pray and like the best of teachers she began to learn from her Son.  In this way we see how Mary became the Lord’s first disciple, close to him throughout the hidden yet fruitful years of his life, noting and pondering as mothers do the way he behaved with others and the things he did and said.

Our Lady’s unique closeness to God and the holiness of her life enabled her very readily to appreciate and be changed by what she saw in her Son.  Although she was without sin, she could still, like us, deepen in holiness and in her knowledge of God’s goodness and truth, and she did.  She is not distant from us in our own experience of discipleship and she is therefore recognised as a model of the Church’s own life and mission.

As we prepare in prayer for tomorrow’s celebration of Mary’s Feast and for the Mass of Installation I am particularly glad that so many members of the Religious Congregations in the Archdiocese, men and women are here this evening to pray the Prayer of the Church.  We have a moment of stillness and quiet prayer together which reminds me of something at the heart of your charisms as Sisters and Brothers.

The Religious vocation is a particular expression of the communion which we all experience as members of the Church through our baptism.  You have been called in a more intense way to live together a life of prayer, a life of witness and mission and I know that that takes many different forms.  It often brings a new quality to our oneness in Christ within parish communities and schools and sometimes its effects are experienced though not obvious for all to see. Much happens that is known only to God.

Last Saturday Archbishop Vincent celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at Westminster Cathedral for the 50th Anniversary of the Conference of Religious in England and Wales, and many of us were there.  I echo his words of appreciation for the devoted service of Sisters and Brothers over so many years to the people of God and in support of many dimensions of diocesan life.

The religious vocation is at the heart of the Church and yet it will very often take you out to the margins, as you known,  the edge where you provide welcome and support for some of the most needy people in our society.  The experience of Religious life will often dispose you to serve together the needs of those who are marginalised or vulnerable,
understanding what will help the very young or the dependant elderly.

As I prepare to take up my new responsibilities in the Archdiocese I look forward to visiting the communities of Religious Sisters and Brothers in the years ahead and to recognising, and where I can supporting, your vital work and witness founded as it is on lives of prayerful obedience to God’s call.  May the Lord always prosper your endeavours.  Please pray for me.

The picture on the right shows Archbishop-Elect Bernard Longley  with his father,Fred Longley, aged 81, and  sister, Kathleen Lloyd, at St Chad's, Birmingham, after Vespers.

Archbishop Bernard's family are all Manchester United supporters. But since his appointment the new Archbishop has promised that he will take an interest in the results of the major football teams throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham!

Pictures by Peter Jennings





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Tags: Archbishop Bernard Longley, St Chad's


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